#97 – The Game’s A Foot – Hilary Baird

Finally, we find ourselves under the bright stadium lights battling in the State Play-offs.  I can feel my labored breathing tearing at my chest and my muscles flame with exhaustion.  Our energy keeps failing and reviving, carrying on this ugly pattern throughout the whole second half.  The whistle’s blare signals the end of regulation play.

We take a five minute break, then to the summoning of the whistle, we head back on the field for our first ten minutes of overtime.  The action is a blur of our white jerseys battling against their royal blues.  Time seems to inch along as the battle is at a stalemate.  Five minutes…four minutes…two minutes.

Finally, the chirping sound of the whistle concludes these exhaustive ten minutes.  The mixture of salt and metal in my mouth triggers my gag reflex, so I make a beeline for clean water.  Maddie hunches along beside me cupping her face as we hustle to the side line.  Rusty rivers of crimson sap leak through her fingers and trickle down her arms.  She uses her slender fingers as a dam while Coach Paul hobbles on his hurt leg in search for a tissue.  I finally find a full water bottle and gulp down a mouthful, then I squirt some over Maddie’s hands to help clean them off.

Too soon, the whistle summons us to the field for another ten minutes.  I slowly bring my languid muscles into motion as the minutes tick by.  Our defense is in a tizzy trying to get the ball up field.  Feet from the goal line, Kalyn, our Sweeper, goes to smash the ball up field toward Maddie, but it crashes into the back of our defensive wing, Laura.  The ball cackles as it whizzes past Lizzy’s out stretched fingers caressing the back of our net.

In that moment, our entire team freezes in shock.  I can glimpse a blur of blue bouncing up and down off to my side.

We are all running the scene over again in our minds trying to figure out how on earth that just happened.
The last few minutes tick by as quickly as the gongs of a grandfather clock, and I try to squeeze out every last ounce of juice that I have left.  Scrambling and clawing fiercely, we try to tie up the game.

Then the earsplitting peal grants the victory to our adversaries.  I stand motionless as the weight of the night bears on my shoulders.  My throat plummets to my stomach causing a pressure to build up as if my insides are inflating a balloon.  I glance around me knowing just how intensely this night has impacted each and every one of my teammates.  Ignoring my lethargy, I jog over to the goal.  As I approach Lizzy, the water leaking from her eyes becomes visible and without a word, we embrace knowing that none of what happened tonight was any one’s fault.

I feel my own eyes begin to burn and well up as the hollow ache in my chest expands.  We walk crumple-shouldered over to Kalyn and Laura, and the four of us lean our heads together in silence.  Slowly, the rest of our team plods toward us, and for a moment we all have a hand to squeeze.  With a big sigh, we all march off the field with our arms linked together ready to congratulate our competitors.

~ Hilary Baird, Provo, Utah

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